Making a Path

A Pathfinder Club of a different sort

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the Pathfinder experience that has prepared generations of Adventist young people for service is also mentoring young people of other faiths to serve their communities–and to learn about life. Ricardo, not his real name, is the director of an active, growing club that is nurturing over 40 young people of the majority religion and serving an entire neighborhood of refugee families.

“The traditional Pathfinder identity is quite structured, with many Christian features and a curriculum drawn from the Bible, all with the purpose of preparing young people to serve the world.”  As the director of a community center that serves a neighborhood of refugees and displaced persons though, Ricardo and his team have developed a unique service to their neighborhood, sharing important life values with the young people around them.  “We want to take the Pathfinder purpose of preparing young people to serve and to extend Pathfinders as a service itself,” he exclaims with his trademark grin.

With that goal in mind, Ricardo has been creative in developing a community-friendly, friendship-building experience not only for young people, but for their families and the neighborhood around the community center as well.

“Our first goal is to make our activities attractive, so the young people want to be part of it.  We make belonging serious, with commitment. They are drawn to the group,” he shares. “Our second goal is to build friendships.  We take them to the mountains to hike and camp.  We learn how to build fires and tie knots, how to live healthfully.”   Ricardo and his staff have discovered the value of quality time together.

The club activities are fun, engaging.  But the most important part of the club experience is the personal mentoring that takes place.  “These young people have many questions; many have experienced hard things and they wonder about life,” he explains.  The club activities put the leaders in close relationship with the young people.  Outside their weekly meetings club leaders have time to answer questions, share from their own experiences, even explain their personal values.  They find endless opportunities for personal conversations about life, faith, and God. 

“The community knows we are interested in developing each young person in a wholistic way–physically, mentally, and spiritually,”  Ricardo explains.  Club members know, too, that the Pathfinder Club is a worldwide fellowship and that in other parts of the world it is a Christian organization with spiritual goals.   

One of the most exciting results of the club is that some members never graduate. They choose to become part of the staff.  “Our greatest joy,” Ricardo discloses, “is to see young people making thoughtful decisions for their own lives and then becoming leaders and influencers to their younger friends and family members.”  

Over the thirteen years the club has been functioning in the community, it has had a profound impact on the  lives of hundreds of young people and their families.  According to Byard Parks, coordinator of MENAU’s Pathfinder clubs, “Pathfinder clubs have been a steady, consistent support to many communities across MENA simply by showing sincere love for people and giving kids a place to belong and learn.”  Ricardo and his team are giving that support, offering young people the opportunity to learn about life, to experience serving others together, and to explore their values and faith.